Remembering Laurent Danchin (1946-2017)

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Remembering Laurent Danchin (1946–2017)

Posted in SPACES News



1597272810154449237209702324019292387402065oImage via Raw Vision.

SPACES sorrowfully announces the death of Board member Laurent Danchin, who passed away on January 10, 2017. Laurent served on the Board of SPACES since 2015, and was crucial in helping us expand our international reach to those interested in studying, documenting, and advocating for art environments.

World-renowned for thoughtful and careful writings and curated exhibitions on a variety of art and artists, Laurent was particularly interested in the subject of art brut and art environments. He worked with the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland; the Halle Saint Pierre in Paris; the International Museum of “Arts Modèstes” in Sète, France; and other institutions across Europe to curate a series of exhibitions on the field, annotating them with numerous articles, essays, and introductions. He published several books on art brut and post-contemporary arts, and his works appeared in more than a dozen countries. He was particularly instrumental in the preservation and advocacy for Chomo’s Village d’art préludien environment in France, organizing conservation efforts and thoroughly documenting the various stages of the artist’s expressions. The French editor for Raw Vision, a former journalist and radio/TV announcer, and perceptive interview for a range of creative people, he was also co-author of the website www.mycelium-fr.com.

Laurent was such a bright light in my life, personally, and so thoughtful and warm and funny. Although we usually saw each other only once a year, we corresponded regularly and intellectually jousted with each other to really think through all the ramifications of our analyses of the artists that we loved and studied. The world has truly lost a great thinker and a wonderful soul.

We already miss Laurent’s perception, thoughtfulness, and charm; donations in his name may be made to SPACES by contacting Director Jo Farb Hernández.

 

- Jo Farb Hernández, SPACES Director

 

SPACES Honors Watts Towers Committee Founding Member Jeanne Smith Morgan on her 90th Birthday!

Posted in Preservation News, SPACES News
fabulous-foursome-croppedSPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández, Luisa Del Giudice, Jeanne Morgan, Rosie Lee Hooks – Watts Towers Art Center. Photo by Paul Harris, courtesy Luisa Del Giudice

Born on September 20, 1926, Jeanne Smith Morgan was primarily raised by her grandmother, a Nebraska pioneer and one-room schoolteacher who was born in a sod house on the prairie. She learned early about perseverance, hard work, and to focus on what was important; she never used a mirror (it was hung too high for her to see into it as a child), nor a flush toilet or an electric light until she went to first grade. But she learned how to read and write from her grandfather, a house carpenter and farmer whose mother was a full-blooded Kentucky Cherokee, and how to make willow whistles, wren houses, and much more. Her grandparents were born only two decades after the end of the Civil War, so the Northern anti-slavery culture and its songs filled their home; she was taught about equality and equity and grew up to be a strong leftist thinker, sympathetic to those less fortunate than herself. But she also, from the very beginning, had an “eye,” and, after having received accolades for a picture of The Night that she drew with her Christmas Crayolas, her grandmother believed that she was born to be an artist. 

 

In 1940, when Morgan was in 8th grade, her grandmother died, and she moved to Denver with her mother and stepfather. Based on her art work, at age 14 she won a summer art scholarship to Denver University, an award that was granted to her in subsequent years as well. Thanks to her “dysfunctional family,” however, she became a ward of the court two years later; to overcompensate, she became VP of her class, All-School Show Producer, and more. She won a scholarship to Colorado College, but after one semester, with hopes for better art teachers, she scraped together $70 for train fare to New York to “study in the museums and find the socialists.” She married soon after her arrival, and she and her husband became “anti-Stalin social revolutionaries.”

 

p1070504Jeanne Morgan, photo by Jo Farb Hernández.

Morgan moved to Los Angeles in 1948, where she continued to be involved in the art scene on many levels, including painting a large public mural of Emiliano Zapata. Soon she received yet another scholarship, this one to attend the Otis Art Institute to obtain her MFA. Several years later, as a young art student and “trusted socialist,” she was invited to a civil rights meeting in South Central Los Angeles – Watts. The civil rights revolution was boiling, and with her friends traveling to the South to register voters, Morgan had been feeling like a renegade nonparticipant, focused on art school instead of being on the front lines of major social change. She never made it to that meeting, however, because she became lost and hit the eastern dead end of 107th street. Suddenly, she forgot all about the meeting, as she was confronted with one of the most spectacular and monumental works of art ever created by a single human: the Towers of Sabato Rodia.

 

Even awash in trash, the Towers indeed changed Morgan’s life. She vowed to do everything she could to salvage and bring further visibility to this marvelous achievement by this then-unknown artist. She brought other students to Watts with her, organizing Art Students for Watts Towers; even knowing they shouldn’t, they all climbed the Towers anyway, unable to resist. Toward the end of 1958, she learned from her artist friend Mae Babitz that there was a group of older Los Angeles professionals – architects, actors, designers, artists, and teachers who also wanted to support the Towers – and together, at that first December meeting at Hollyhock House, they founded the Committee for the Preservation of Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts (CSRTW), the original name of the group that would eventually be incorporated as a nonprofit corporation. Film editor Bill Cartwright and actor Nick King, who had just purchased the Towers from Rodia’s neighbor for $3000, urged the new Committee to work to defeat the City’s recently discovered Demolition Order, an order the neighbor had neglected to disclose when he happily sold them the property. The Committee’s success in doing so – after a gut-wrenching “stress test” in October, 1959 designed by aeronautical engineer Bud Goldstone – was the first step toward preservation, and, indeed, to ultimate worldwide recognition for this spectacular site. 

 

img0357City of Los Angeles Proclamation

But those early years weren’t easy – indeed, none of them were. Morgan describes herself as a “foot soldier” for the CSRTW, drawing up petitions and learning to stand up to the macho anti-cultural city authorities who only saw a pile of junk where she saw a masterpiece. In 1961 she and Mae Babitz traveled to Northern California to meet Rodia, carrying small gifts and telling him of their awe about what he had created. “We intended to amaze and cheer him,” she writes, “and we did.” This was the first of many trips for Morgan, and other CSRTW members followed; during one of those visits, it was arranged for Rodia to speak to students at the nearby Berkeley campus of the University of California in conjunction with a showing of the 1953 William Hale film; there, documented by SPACES founder Seymour Rosen, the artist received a standing ovation. 

 

In 1962 Morgan finished her MFA at Otis, with her thesis concentrating on contemporary methods in stained glass, a project inspired by the Towers and one that, ultimately, provided her with the chemical and technical knowledge to demonstrate varied rates of molecular movement in heat, the exact problem suffered by the Towers. Because Rodia had used a variety of materials with distinct and incompatible molecular structures, they compressed each other as they each uniquely reacted to the sun and heat; this differential movement created cracks that allowed moisture to seep into the metal cores and rust the armatures, thus endangering the structures’ stability. Morgan, therefore, knew on a much more technical level what was necessary for their durability over the long term, knowledge some of the people entrusted with preserving the Towers did not share.

 

As civil rights actions were heating up, members of the CSRTW knew that they could not, in good conscience, ignore the community in which the Towers were located. It had earlier been a diverse and multicultural neighborhood, but by the early 1960s it had become primarily African-American, as the earlier Japanese and Mexican residents had moved on. It was clear to Morgan that the broader philosophical, political, and sociological impact of the sculptures was as profound as their aesthetic power: “The relation of art and success arose. We couldn’t believe that a work of such great value and noble achievement could be so lost, so unknown. It was a shocking testimony to the plight of Watts’ people, who were certainly as ignored as were Rodia’s mighty sculptures. The Towers were like a jewel in a wound.” 

 

So, in 1965, now as Executive Director of the CSRTW, she was sent by her Board to staff an office in a little white house near the Towers that had been purchased two years earlier in order to provide a safe space in which they could offer free art classes to local children. Lucille Krasne, the children’s art instructor at the Pasadena Museum, had volunteered to teach classes near the Towers beginning in 1961, and once the office was established the untrained children ran in and out while their parents, thinking that this was a new social service agency, came in with pleas to help release a son from jail or provide food for a daughter’s baby. Yet while peace was mostly made with members of the community, Morgan recalls a self-styled “Mao Revolutionary” wearing khaki fatigues and a cap emblazoned with a large red star, wearing dark pancake makeup so as to blend in better with the local community, who yelled at her with great hostility: “You gettcher white ass out of here!” Of course, she didn’t. 

img0360City of Los Angeles Proclamation

 

The trust and appreciation of the community has waxed and waned over the years for those mostly white pioneers who, driven by their marvel at Rodia’s constructions, also became involved in trying to improve lives in Watts. After the Watts rebellion in 1965 – from which the Towers emerged unscathed – the neighborhood was no longer seen as safe for white visitors, and the Committee’s only income, derived from tours of the Towers, dried up. Nevertheless, the CSRTW continued working, and through volunteer labor and fundraising – including the “One Square Inch” campaign that sold miniscule portions of the Towers to supporters – succeeded in expanding those art classes, the earliest ones taught outdoors, into a permanent and handsome space, the Watts Towers Art Center. Inaugurated in 1970, it has become one of L.A.’s most dynamic cultural centers, with an ongoing series of exhibitions, performances, and festivals that draw thousands of visitors each year. 

 

By 1975, however, the Committee had no further funds, and some members were aging and/or moving away. Because the City of Los Angeles promised a complete restoration, touting Rodia’s work as a monumental aesthetic achievement, the decision was made to gift them the property. Relieved and reassured, the CSRTW signed a contract that included a clause requiring the City to solicit and receive the Committee’s approval for any matters impacting the Towers. However, the City ignored the contract, and, shortly thereafter, formally sold the Towers to the State of California for $207,000, with a lease-back to operate the Towers for fifty years. The City then transferred management of the Towers from the Department of Cultural Affairs to the Department of Public Works, more commonly in charge of LA’s sewers and streets than of works of art. DPW Director Warren Hollier then contracted with his friend Ralph Vaughn to manage the restoration process. An unlicensed and unscrupulous contractor who hired local youth and directed them to pry off anything that was loose on the Towers, Vaughn’s intent was to reinstall the “rubble” later according to his own designs, rather than those of Rodia. “It’s folk art,” he cried, “and we’re folks! Better than Rodia!”

 

Thanks to pro bono legal help from Carlyle Hall’s Center for Laws in the Public Interest, the CSRTW sued the City, and in 1979 ultimately won case C259603 in Superior Court, cancelling Vaughn’s contract. Further, a complementary Los Angeles Times investigation exposed kickbacks to the head of the DPW, forcing his resignation. Other local officials, including the mayor’s daughter, were also implicated in the illicit purchase of supplies and other materials. But despite this hard-won victory, ill-informed and unethical attempts to conserve the Towers continued in subsequent years; as late as 2006, Morgan and others helped prevent another City-sponsored crew from shoddy and inexpert repair. But they were too late to stop a crew member who destroyed Rodia’s signature – his right handprint placed in the wet mortar just west of the exterior north wall gate. A poor reproduction has now replaced it.

p1070462Rosie Lee Hooks, Jeanne Morgan, and Jack Jones III from the City of Los Angeles, photo by Jo Farb Hernández

Morgan has worked for almost sixty years with the Towers as Executive Director and/or Curator of the CSRTW, and the more involved she became, the more complex and challenging the work became. Nevertheless, she concurrently prolifically continued to produce her own art, and explore the work of those other artists whose works she finds of particular interest. Also a compelling writer, she served as Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Free Press, and both her creative work and her writings analyzing the Towers have appeared in national and international publications. Her most recent publication is An Interpretation of Goya’s Caprichos: With 80 Interpretive Line Drawings. 


Morgan, at 90, now rarely visits the Towers, partly due to her move, around 1981, to Santa Barbara, some two hours north. Nevertheless, she continues to draw them, and to brainstorm and write about them, as she sends out regular missives advocating for their safety and preservation – an increasingly lonely job, as most of her original CSRTW compatriots have passed on or have grown tired of the fight. She is relieved and delighted that now, with trained conservators from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art having undertaking the task of conservation, basing their design on the meticulous vintage photographs taken of the Towersand their hands-on work on real science, new technology may help to better preserve Rodia’s masterpiece for the long term.  

 

unesco-lunchInterested parties and stakeholders in the bid to have the Watts Towers honored as a cultural heritage site through UNESCO. Photo courtesy Luisa Del Giudice

On September 25, Morgan’s 90th birthday was celebrated at the Towers. Joined by new and old friends – including some she had never met in person but with whom she had corresponded over the decades – SPACES hosted a luncheon to celebrate the proclamations of service and gratitude granted her by the City of Los Angeles, her longtime opponent. Rosie Lee Hooks, Director of the Watts Towers Art Center, and Luisa Del Giudice, prime mover behind the Watts Common Ground Initiative and the initiative to place the Towers on UNESCO’s list for consideration for cultural heritage status, joined SPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández and others in feting Morgan’s achievements. Her long and productive life, working in a variety of ways on a variety of levels, has been spent trying to expand artistic horizons and appreciation for artworks often unknown or underappreciated, and to right often egregious wrongs that others often shrank from challenging. She is an inspiration to all of us to continue this struggle.

 

- Jo Farb Hernández, based on personal emails from Morgan to author, July through September, 2016. Excerpts from this text will be published in the December 2016 issue of Folk Art Messenger.

TAKE ACTION: Tell City Officials to Support the Watts Towers Arts Center and its Programs

Posted in Preservation News, Take Action

 

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 Dear Friends,

 

Last week, the 40th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival and the 35th Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival survived a SERIOUS THREAT from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs.  Due to their stated administrative strictures, they were going to withhold resources essential for the Festivals’ presentation this year.  At the last minute, after months of sporadic discussions with Watts Towers Arts Center Campus staff and Campus community support groups, the present crisis was averted.

 

We ask you now to help us avoid such a crisis in the future!  We need to show official Los Angeles the depth of support that the Watts Towers and its Arts Center has.  Help us impress upon the representatives of Los Angeles city government the importance of open communication with the staff of the Watts Towers Arts Center and the representatives of the Campus community support groups who have worked over the years on site to plan, organize and present these vital community events.

 

 

We ask you to put your name to the letter we have prepared below and to send it to everyone on the “Mail to:” list beneath the letter.  

Make whatever changes in the letter you feel will better reflect your perspective. Then send the letter to the first address on the list (Danielle Brazell, General Manager, Department of Cultural Affairs) and cc all the following names.

 

 

Please join us in continuing to protect the Watts community from the possibility of losing these public festival treasures that have represented our cultural heritage over four decades.

 

Thank you.

 

 

[SAMPLE LETTER below]

 

Dear Ms. Brazell,

 

I am grateful that the Department of Cultural Affairs has removed the obstructions threatening the production of the 40th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival and the 35th Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival, scheduled for presentation on September 24 and 25.  It is appalling to think that these cultural heritage treasures – the oldest continuously running annual music festivals offered free to the public in the City of Los Angeles – might not have been presented this year.  

 

I stand by the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus staff and community support groups. I urge you to allow them in the spirit of open communication and mutual cooperation to continue to serve the City and our community and to showcase the riches of our cultural heritage under one of the world’s great monuments of architectural sculpture.

 

I ask as well that you help them seek the support of the City Councilman in whose district the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus has served to bring world-class arts exhibitions and professional arts and music education for over 50 years.       

 

Rodia’s Nuestro Pueblo, the Watts Towers Arts Center and these historic heritage festivals are beacons of freedom, initiative and multi-ethnic harmony.  The City of Los Angeles cannot afford to have such powerful symbols of peace and community be lost in these troubled times that we all must face together.

 

Sincerely yours,

YOUR NAME

 

In support of 

The Watts Towers Community Action Council

The Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center

The Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus

The Watts Towers Arts Center Youth Board     

 

 

Mail to:

 

danielle.brazell@lacity.orgdaniel.tarica@lacity.orgLeslie.a.thomas@lacity.orgeric.garcetti@lacity.orgbarbara.romero@lacity.org

Edgar.garcia@lacity.orgluis.rivera@lacity.orgJoel.jacinto@la.city.orgMike.davis@lacity.orgcontroller.galperin@lacity.org

joe.buscaino@lacity.orgCouncilmember.wesson@lacity.orgdavid.ryu@lacity.org; councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org; councilmember.price@lacity.org; paul.koretz@lacity.org; Markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov; sawoods@parks.ca.gov; leslie.hartzell@parks.ca.gov; Terry.nicholson@mail.house.gov; 

Ericfboyd@mailhouse.gov; lucy.walker@sen.ca.gov; Holly.mitchell@sen.ca.gov; Michelle.chambers@asm.ca.gov

Keara.joe@asm.ca.gov; craig.watson@arts.ca.gov; kelan10@att.netwatts.towers1@lacity.org

 

 

Dispatch from the Field: Jo Farb Hernández in Spain

Posted in Just Added, SPACES News

April turned out to be an extremely busy month as I continue my work in Spain.

The early part of the month I lectured on my Spanish art environment project (Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments) at Madrid’s fabulous Factoría Cultural. This arts complex, the former livestock market and slaughterhouse, takes up an entire city block of beautifully restored brick buildings; among other elements it includes spaces for performances, theatre, exhibitions, children’s workshops, lectures, and artist studios. 

untitledPresenting 'Singular Spaces' at Madrid’s Factoría Culturaluntitled2with Lucía Ybarra, Director of External Affairs for the Factoría Cultural

Later in the month I participated as a presenter as part of the first Diploma in Art Brut being offered at the University of Granada. This is an intensive six-week evening course, and I was pleased to be one of the early presenters so that I could express our understanding of the breadth of the field and appropriate ways to describe the artworks and honor the artists.

untitled3Left to right: SPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández, artist Roberto Pérez (La Finca de las Piedras Encantadas), author/curator Graciela García, and Pepa Mora Sánchez, UGR Professor and organizar of the Diploma.

Taking advantage of being in southern Spain, I spent the next several days doing fieldwork on three art environments that I had not previously known.  All three (as well as many others) will be included in the second volume of my Singular Spaces project, and all three are truly amazing sites. 

The first was a visit to the ornamented garden and home of Juan Muñoz Benítez. Although the artist died several years ago, his younger brother Anastasio is faithfully maintaining his work. Muñoz’s small village on the outskirts of Granada is about an hour from the coast, so the artist would travel there in his little Seat 600 to collect little stones and pebbles with which he would ornament his home and yard. Riffing off of the traditional “Granadino” [from Granada area] style of inlaying stones into sidewalks and streets, Muñoz took this to another level, with sophisticated designs, conceptually intriguing juxtapositions of flat work with bas-relief and three-dimensional elements, and meticulous craftsmanship.

 

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The following day we headed down to the beaches of the Adra area, between Malaga and Almería. There, María Rodríguez has been working on a shell garden. Her house fronts the beach, and all of her raw materials are found there simply for the cost of picking them up.

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The last day we headed west of Malaga to Benalmádena, where Karl Martín and his mother are caring for, conserving, and supporting the spectacular monument conceived and built by their late father/husband, Estéban Martin Martin from 1987-1994. Helped by two local bricklayers, Martín’s Castillo de Colomares is dedicated to Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. This site is open to the public daily, and is the only architectural structure I’ve seen in Spain that approaches Ferdinand Cheval’s Palais Idéal in complexity and conceptual depth. More photos will be forthcoming as we develop the page for the SPACES website.

One of Columbus’s original ships, the Santa María, which broke apart and did not return with the crew to Spain in 1493.

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ship3Detail of one of the central towers

May is shaping up to be similarly busy; among other projects, I’ll be lecturing and participating in a round table in Bilbao on Spanish art environments, and  subsequent to that will take advantage of my trip north to visit several “new” art environments in the Basque Country, Navarra, and La Rioja. Watch this space for images and more information after that fieldwork trip as well.

I hope you’re having a marvelous spring! Let us know if you discover or update your images of any art environments as you travel.

  

With all best,

jo


Jo Farb Hernández

Director, SPACES

ACT NOW: Support the Watts Towers Candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

Posted in Preservation News

 

UNESCO World Heritage sites are considered among those monuments, neighborhoods, and buildings that demonstrate Outstanding Universal Value – the best in the world. We believe that the Watts Towers art environment in Los Angeles qualifies under that criteria, and are looking to submit an application for their review, but we have an extremely small window of opportunity to advance the candidacy of this site: paperwork must be received by UNESCO by April 30 – less than one month away!
In order for the nomination to even be submitted, we need the support of the City of Los Angeles, managers of the Watts Towers. To that end, we urge you to write to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the following list of staffers and administrators, urging them to support this initiative. My sample letter is attached, but please feel free to personalize it to reflect your own experience with and support of the Towers.
Thanks in advance for helping us bring additional visibility and protection to one of the most important art environments the world over!

 

Send letters to:
 
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles:  eric.garcetti@lacity.org
Edgar Garcia, City of Los Angeles, Office of the Mayor:  Edgar.garcia@lacity.org
Danielle Brazell, General Manager, Department of Cultural Affairs:  danielle.brazell@lacity.org
Daniel Tarica, Assistant General Manager, Department of Cultural Affairs:  daniel.tarica@lacity.org
Leslie Thomas, Director, Community Arts Division Dept. of Cultural Affairs: Leslie.a.thomas@lacity.org
Joseph Buscaino, Councilman, 15th District 15:  joe.buscaino@lacity.org
Mike Davis, Commissioner, City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works: Mike.davis@lacity.org
Joel Jacinto, Commissioner, City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works, Joel.jacinto@lacity.org
Sean Woods, Superintendent, Los Angeles Sector, California State Parks:  sawoods@parks.ca.gov
Leslie Hartzell, Chief, Cultural Resources Division, State Parks:  leslie.hartzell@parks.ca.gov
Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov
Herb J. Wesson, Councilman, 10th District:  Councilmember.wesson@lacity.org
 
 
And copy them to:
 
Jo Farb Hernández, Director, SPACES: jfh@cruzio.com
Luisa Del Guidice, Watts Towers UNESCO Committee: luisadg@humnet.ucla.edu
Maxine Waters, U.S. Congresswoman, Attn: Terry Nicholson:  Terry.nicholson@mail.house.gov
Isadore Hall III, California State Senator, Attn: Lucy Walker  lucy.walker@sen.ca.gov
Holly Mitchell, California State Senator:  Holly.mitchell@sen.ca.gov
Mike Gipson, 64th District Assemblymember:  Attn: Keara Joe Keara.joe@asm.ca.gov
Craig Watson, Director, California Arts Council:  craig.watson@arts.ca.gov
Julie Fry, President and CEO, California Council for the Humanities Attn:  Felicia Kelley fkelley@calhum.org
Rosie Lee Hooks, Director, Watts Towers Arts Center Campus, Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Watts.towers1@lacity.org

Support Watts Towers letter (.pdf format)

Support Watts Towers letter (.txt format)

 

March 24, 2016

SPACES (Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments)
9053 Soquel Drive, Suite 205
Aptos, CA 95003

Eric Garcetti, Mayor
City of Los Angeles
Via email : eric.garcetti@lacity.org

Dear Mr. Garcetti:

As you no doubt know, the Watts Towers complex, built by Italian immigrant Sabato Rodia over a 30-plus year period beginning in 1921, is not only the most important public art work in the City of Los Angeles, but has been recognized with state and national status on their registers of historical landmarks and monuments. It is renowned globally as an icon of the genre of art environments and is a draw for art enthusiasts from around the world; indeed, a 2009 international conference in Italy focused on the Towers, and I myself have used them as the fulcrum for discussions about art environments across the United States, as well as in lectures in France, Spain, and Switzerland.

 

At this time we have the opportunity to assure that the Watts Towers gain even further visibility and protection by having them be considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The window of opportunity for submission of this application, however, is tight: we must submit all paperwork by April 30, just over one month away. We have the backing from the current owners of the monument – the State of California’s State Parks system – as well as from an impressive roster of international scholars and citizen advocates. And we have no doubt that we will be easily able to meet and surpass the criteria for the “Outstanding Universal Value” that is required for the nomination to move forward in the process. (For further information, you might wish to review additional documentation about the Towers at www.WattsTowersCommonGround.org or http://spacesarchives.org/explore/collection/environment/watts-towers/.)

 

This application, however, cannot move forward without the express support of the City of Los Angeles, managers of the site.

 

I therefore urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to take all immediate measures necessary to authorize submittal of this application enabling the Watts Towers to be reviewed as a possible candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status. You, and the City of Los Angeles, have nothing to lose but much to gain should the candidacy be approved.

Should you have any questions, I would be pleased to answer them or to provide whatever additional information you might require.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter, and congratulations, in advance, for having begun the process to add an important World Heritage Site to the list of Los Angeles’s many assets.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jo Farb Hernandez
Executive Director
www.spacesarchives.org

 

 

 

SPACES in Switzerland

Posted in SPACES News

I was delighted to be approached by the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland to co-curate an exhibition of annotated photographs of art environments to complement their exhibition Architectures, which opened November 13, 2015 and will continue through April 17, 2016. Our photographs were significantly enlarged and installed on panels in front of the museum; the following artists are featured: Josep Pujiula, Francisco Gonzalez Gragera, Peter Buch, and Felix Sanperiz from Spain (texts and photos mine); Euclides Da Costa Ferreira from France (photos Seymour Rosen, text by Henk van Es), and Sabato Rodia (photos and text mine), along with Billy Tripp and Cano Espinoza from the US (photos and text by Fred Scruton). There is also a separate panel which focuses on SPACES and our history/mission/activities, introducing what we do to the targeted audience of the Collection de l’art brut.

 

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In conjunction with the exhibition, I was invited to speak at a conference organized by the CAB along with the Forum on Architecture of Lausanne. SPACES Board member Laurent Danchin had also been scheduled to speak but had to cancel; in his stead, art historian Roberta Trapani and architect/painter Arduino Cantàflora filled out the rest of the program.

Collection de l’art brut Curator Pascale Marini-Jeanneret introduces my lecture:

blog-3-0krCollection de l’art brut Curator Pascale Marini-Jeanneret introduces my lecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog-4-c1nPhoto by Sam Hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog5-c85Roberta Trapani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog6-k4rArduino Cantflora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog7-f29CAB Director Sarah Lombardi, CAB Curator Pascale Marini-Jeanneret, and SPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández at the Forum on Architecture, Lausanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

SPACES Director to Present Singular Spaces at Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum

Posted in SPACES News

 

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Friends + amigos, 

 

If you will be in Madrid next week, please come to the Reina Sofia Museum on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 pm to enjoy the presentation of my book Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, along with books by three other women who have recently published on the theme of art brut/art environments in Spain, Cuba, and Italy.

These works flow outside of the mainstream currents of art, and, as such, escape the homogeneity of much contemporary work. Their creators, primarily self-taught, express a unstoppable need to create. They thus fulfill an important role as active witnesses to the power of art to realize unique, passionate, and personal inspirations. Giada Carraro, Jo Farb Hernández, Graciela García, and Yaysis Ojeda Becerra, four women from different parts of the world, have recently published books on this theme. They will come together at the La Central bookstore at Madrid’s Museum Art Center Reina Sofía, Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art, in order to more widely disseminate their publications on creative expressions found outside of the principal circuits of art.”

Find out more HERE.

 

Warmly,

jo

 

********************

 

Si por si acaso estaréis en Madrid la semana que viene, por favor pasáis a la Reina Sofia jueves a las 19:00 de la tarde para una presentación de mi libro Singular Spaces igual con 3 libros más sobre el asunto de arte brut/art environments en España, Cuba, e Italia. ¡Todos sean bienvenidos!

 

Mas AQUI.

 

Un saludo,

jo

SPACES Archives Welcomes New Communications Coordinator

Posted in Just Added, SPACES News

Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments (SPACES) is pleased to welcome Jennifer Joy Jameson as our first Communications Coordinator, where she will use SPACES’ mission and goals to help the organization build new audiences and partnerships.

jjj

Originally from Southern California, but based in the South, Jennifer also serves as the Folk and Traditional Arts Director at the Mississippi Arts Commission, where she administers grants, provides consultation to artists and organizations, and develops special initiatives and documentation projects related to a wide range of cultural arts. She has an M.A. in public sector folk studies from Western Kentucky University and a B.A. in folklore and ethnomusicology from Indiana University. Jennifer has worked with museums, archives, festivals, and arts and cultural organizations on the federal, state, and local level, including positions with the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Traditional Arts Indiana, the Kentucky Folklife Program, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Folkstreams, a national preserve of films on traditional culture, and the Tennessee Folklore Society. Her academic studies have focused on material culture (including art environments) and traditional music in the American South, having spoken or taught on those topics within and beyond the Southern states.

You can reach Jennifer with any new media and communications inquiries at communications@spacesarchives.org

 

SELF-TAUGHT ARTIST JOSEP PUJIULA HONORED FOR ELABORATE INSTALLATIONS

78-YEAR-OLD ARTIST RECEIVES LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL HONORS

Josep Pujiula i Vila, whose labyrinthine installations outside the village of Argelaguer (Girona), Spain have been featured in books, films, articles, TV, and radio, has simultaneously been honored by the regional government as well as by one of the most prestigious juries for public artworks internationally.
 
On October 16, 2014, the Consell Comarcal (the regional government of the county that includes Argelaguer and environs) voted unanimously and across party lines to declare Pujiula’s work a “Bé Cultural de Interés Local,” a local cultural heritage site.  This official designation builds on the legalization of the site, which took place the preceding July, and confirms that the regional government will work to protect and preserve what remains of Pujiula’s works. The government was impressed not only by the efforts of the Argelaguer community to save this important public art installation, but by the receipt of a petition begun by SPACES’s Director Jo Farb Hernández, which received more than 1100 signatures by art admirers living in 38 countries around the world.
 
Josep Pujiula, known as “Garrell” or the “Tarzan of Argelaguer,” has spent almost forty-five years improvisationally constructing a variety of structures, including towers reaching close to 100 feet in height and labyrinths approaching one mile in length, all out of materials found locally. No formalized or written plans ever existed for his elaborate constructions. The constructions were full of personal histories, connections, and experiences, and this fusion of his art with his life became a total synthesis that dominated his days.  Yet he was forced to completely dismantle his structures three times due to governmental regulations or mandates; nevertheless, he always returned to the site and began to build again, each time creating a unique and complex series of structures that evidenced his increasingly refined aesthetic and technical abilities. Over time, Pujiula’s work has become known as one of the most unique, most monumental, and most compelling art environments worldwide.
 
At the same time that the regional government was formally acknowledging the importance of Pujiula’s work, the larger art world was also taking notice. In 2013 Hernández nominated him for the International Award for Public Art, a joint venture of Chinese and American public art curators and administrators. Although nominations came in from all corners of the world, only 120 of the most promising were selected for full research, apportioned to seven global regions. In the fall of 2014, it was announced that Pujiula is one of seven finalists for this award, representing all of Europe, including the Russian Federation. While other self-taught artists have been considered in previous years for this global honor, none before has achieved the status of being one of the final commended seven. Pujiula plans to attend the award ceremony in New Zealand in June 2015.
 

Latest News from Jo Farb Hernández

I am about a month into my annual summer fieldwork trip, and have already seen some wonderful art environments and have been heartened with some positive movement toward our general preservation goals.

I began in Paris in May, speaking on SPACES and the curation of art environments for the annual meeting of the European Outsider Art Association (giving my standard rant about problems with the term outsider as part of my presentation [sweetly, of course, grin]), and I actually think that there is—finally—some growing unease with this term in Europe. So it was a good opportunity to thrash out some of these issues with a receptive audience…jo-speaking-nk7

My own lecture, per their request, was about curating/documenting art environments (the entire theme of the conference was “Curating Outsider Art”), so it was an interesting opportunity for me to think a bit more broadly about what I do in this regard, while at the same time providing some specific information (how to’s) for those facing similar circumstances in terms of threatened sites. I of course directed their attention to the SPACES website in general, but also specifically in terms of how to document art environments.  I also showed some pages from the Singular Spaces book CD, including the site plans, using them as a model of how we’d ultimately like to document all sites.

document-imageAntoni Macià, Zoo de l’Empordà, Regincós, Spain

I was particularly pleased that John Maizels, editor/publisher of Raw Vision, was so enthusiastic about our good work continuing Seymour Rosen’s legacy at SPACES after hearing my lecture. I was also delighted to have the opportunity to finally put faces with the names of folks with whom I’ve been corresponding and working for so many years, and, also, of course, meeting many new folks who are working in group-photothe field.

As part of a post-conference field visit, Laurent Danchin and I, along with several others from Finland, France, and Italy, went down to Roger Chomeaux’s site near Fontainebleau forest. It is deteriorating and the sculptures have been removed for safekeeping, but the structures themselves still appear to be amazingly strong and stable. We were met there by Marc Botlan, Inspector General for Historical Monuments for the French Department of Culture and Communication, who is exploring the possibility of adding this site to the “patrimoine” of the country. Laurent and I spent the afternoon with him (along with my husband Sam, and Chomo’s daughter Geneviève), and he was very interested to hear about SPACES. We also discussed different models from all over the world for how these kinds of sites can be preserved. I’m guardedly optimistic that perhaps the French government might be able to add Chomo’s site to their group of registered art environments and ultimately support its preservation.

Back down in Spain, I was pleased to see that the Regincós site of Antoni Macià has been cleaned up and the architectural structures and sculptures are now much more visible than they were during the time I was doing my in-depth fieldwork for the Singular Spaces project.field-image

I was also so very pleased, on my first visit this year to Josep Pujiula’s site near Argelaguer, to see that he has continued to work very hard over the winter, and there are many new, positive changes. The lovely cascading fountains and pools are still there (these had been under attack last year by the governmental agency that regulates natural water sources), but there is also a new cupola-topped tower accessible by ten different labyrinthine tunnels created out of his signature bent branches.

 

But even more impressive, he has returned to the cave areas that he had begun picking out several years ago, and is now rapidly digging out tunnels, ovoid interior windows, and passageways within the cliff, as well as ornamenting both interior and exteritunnelsor walls of the rock face with figurative and abstract designs—all with little hammers and chisels. An outrageous amount of work! It is now a wonderful play space for both children and adults, but it will ultimately be the place where his ashes will be laid.

josep-x4mJosep has been getting some good publicity locally as the new film, Sobre La Marxa, directed and edited by Jordi Morató, has been showing in film festivals from Canada to the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain, and racking up a few prizes along the way. His film includes footage from the film

Sam and I worked on in 2005, part of the Forms of Tradition in Contemporary Spain project. Just last weekend I introduced the film and Josep’s work at the Mostra Cinema Frontera film festival in Portbou, a small seaside village just south of the French border, to an appreciative audience.

jfh-rb7I am looking forward to visiting the Aragon site of Julio Basanta again next week, as well as a site fairly nearby which will be new to me. And we are continuing our efforts to preserve Josep Pujiula’s work, efforts about which I remain guardedly optimistic.

In the meantime, back on the home front at SPACES central in Aptos, we are adding new environments as well as new texts and photos for earlier-posted environments every week to our website, so continue to watch this space. And remember, if you have materials to share, please send me an email at info@spacesarchives.org and we’ll add them as quickly as possible.

 

Have a good summer!
jo

 

 

 



Browse Blog Archives by Month
Highlights

Conservator-in-Residence Position, Hartman Rock Garden - Ohio
Preservation News

SPACES Honors Watts Towers Committee Founding Member Jeanne Smith Morgan on her 90th Birthday!
Preservation News, SPACES News

Remembering Josep Pujiula i Vila (1937-2016)
Just Added, Self-Taught Arts in the News

Dispatch from the Field: Jo Farb Hernández in Spain
Just Added, SPACES News

Materializing the Bible. by James S. Bielo (Miami University)
Gardens, Religious, Devotional & Spiritual

Call to Action: Preserve Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village in California
Threatened Environments

Mr. Imagination exhibit at Intuit named one of 10 best in the United States
Self-Taught Arts in the News

SPACES Director to Present Singular Spaces at Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum
SPACES News

Margaret’s Grocery listed as one of Mississippi’s Historic Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Properties!
Preservation News, Threatened Environments

Watch 1990s Jarvis Cocker Travel Art Environments All Over the World in This BBC Mini-Series
Found Objects

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Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

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